She's everything Travis Williams has ever wanted, but with murder in the cards, will the hunky shifter succeed in claiming Sarah French as his?
Travis Williams has steadily fallen in love with ranch owner, Sarah French. She's sexy as sin, beautiful inside and out, stubborn...and as spirited as one of her feistiest horses. She's going to be hard to tame, but if anyone has the balls to do it, Travis does. After all, he wants to win her and win her good—by loving the Texan bones of her and taking her to heights she's never been before.
Sarah French has a problem—she sees things in only black and white and doesn't trust men. Though she employs all males on her ranch, it doesn't mean she has to like them. An only child, she's grown up feeling inferior since her mother died while giving birth to a much-wanted son. All her life, Sarah has vowed to be as good as-or better than-any man, and no one will persuade her otherwise. She's strong, she's tough, and she's obstinate as all get out.
However, her icy façade is about to be melted, because not only Travis has her in his sights as a potential bed-mate, local bad-boy Clark James has made it clear he'll take Sarah whatever way he can...including by force.
With her emotional walls tumbling around her, the suspicion that the man she loves is a wolf, and Clark making her cringe at every turn, Sarah must learn that not everything is so clear cut. Sometimes, you have to look at the world in shades of grey.
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About the Author
Natalie Dae is a multi-published author in three pen names writing several genres. She lives with her husband, children, and three cats in an English village. She writes full time and is also a cover artist and blog designer. In another life she was an editor. Her other pen names are Sarah Masters and Charley Oweson.
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Travis stood on the edge of Sarah French's ranch and sniffed the air. Shit, he could smell her sexy-as-fuck scent from here, would recognise it anywhere. In his wolf form, despite the night cloaking him, he risked being spotted or shot, but hell ... what he'd heard earlier had spurred him into visiting her now.
Seemed local asshole Clark James was intent on making Sarah his woman tonight, regardless of whether she wanted him or not.
That wasn't an option.
Travis narrowed his eyes, cocking his head to listen for hunters. They roamed this area freely all year round, even though they shouldn't be on Sarah's damn property.
A lone woman's requests were easy to ignore.
He looked up at the moon, the big silver ball obscured by thick grey clouds pregnant with rain. He reckoned there'd be a downpour before the hour was up, maybe a storm tagging along for the ride. The autumn weather had been all kinds of crazy lately — warm one minute, teeming with rain the next. The different aromas the rain threw up messed with his sense of smell, obscuring those he would have caught with no trouble at all in the dryer seasons.
Deeming it safe, he loped across the grassy field surrounding her white house, keeping his eyes keen to any movement in the shadows. A line of trees stood to his right, their trunks like thick bodies topped with an abundance of hair. The leaves hadn't fallen yet, and in the daytime they were a riot of reds, yellows, browns and oranges. Wouldn't be long and those branches would be laid bare, skeletal arms and fingers stretching into the winter sky.
He'd wanted to make love to Sarah beneath them for the longest time. Since last summer when he'd first rolled into town looking for work. He'd found it, right here on her ranch, and, hell, he'd found the woman of his damn dreams as well.
He reached the picket fence separating her house from the fields and paused. Sniffed again. All he smelt was her.
He slunk low and crawled under the fence and, on the other side, scoped the area again. You couldn't be too careful around these parts. One wrong turn and you were fucked. Those hunters, Clark James and his cronies, didn't give a shit what they killed. Travis had heard tales of them killing a man once, some hiker kid who had wandered into the mountains at the back of Sarah's place. Denial had come quickly, as though they'd got their stories straight before news had hit the town of a dead body on the banks of Gordon's Creek, but Travis had known better. Had known by the glint in Clark's eyes that something was amiss, had been able to tell by the scent of blood coming off him in waves. Yeah, he might have washed it off, but it had still lingered. A wolf could smell it — no problem.
Baring his teeth, Travis padded towards Sarah's house, heading for the French doors to her living room. He'd keep out of sight, wouldn't want to frighten her, but he had to see if Clark was there. He couldn't smell the man, but Travis wanted to check just the same.
He stared through the glass, seeing Sarah curled up on the blue velour sofa, legs tucked beneath her, a book on her lap. A baby-pink nightgown covered most of her body from his view, and he was glad of that. Wouldn't feel right watching her if she was exposed, unaware he was out here. He was no stalker, no freak.
The fire to the right of her blazed — long licks of yellow and orange flame that pranced frenetically. What he wouldn't give to be in there with her right now. She was beautiful, no doubt about it, the kind of woman every man wanted. Trouble was, most single men around here did want her, hanging around the way they did, asking if she needed help with this or that. Apart from Travis and a couple of others, Sarah only employed married men. A sure-fire way of keeping safe, she'd said. He'd asked why she'd taken him on to groom the horses and give them exercise.
And that was all he'd got out of her.
It churned Travis' guts when he thought about one of the other men touching her. Made him see red every time. So why hadn't he told her how he felt? Why did he stand on the sidelines, just being her friend and employee? Simple. Because what woman would believe he could shift into a wolf? What woman in her right mind could accept that? Sarah was level-headed, strong and independent, saw things in black and white. Anything grey didn't figure with her. It was a frustrating trait, one that had led to many heated discussions between them, ending up with him walking away allowing her to believe she was right and he was wrong.
But with Clark fucking James, he wouldn't be swayed. That man was bad to the marrow. Travis would just have to make sure Sarah saw it, that was all.
She shifted in her seat, flicking over a page in her book. He wondered what she was reading this time. Maybe one of those horror novels she enjoyed so much, or a thriller, perhaps. He should have known she wasn't the romance type. No hearts and flowers for this girl. She liked it as real as it could get, true crime being her favourite read, so she'd said.
Her long hair, black as a crow's wing, fell forward, shining from the light of the fire. She tucked the wayward strands behind her ear and brought one hand to her mouth, sucking a thumb tip or biting a nail, he wasn't sure which. He wondered what that hair would feel like running through his fingers, whether the folds of her cunt would be just as soft — or softer. If he wasn't a wolf he'd be hard right now, battling away an erection that threatened to expose how he felt about her. So far, when in her presence, he'd managed to walk away if his cock sprang to life, or to hide it beneath his plaid shirt fronts. Even taking his Stetson off and holding it casually in front — the action looking as natural as breathing, belying the real reason behind it.
A few splatters of rain slapped his pelt, one plopping on the end of his snout. That was all he fucking needed. Yeah, he'd known it was going to rain at some point, but he'd hoped it would be later once he'd seen Clark off. Now the rain would mess with his sense of smell, and if a wind picked up he was in the shit and then some. Frustrated, he growled low in his throat, the hair on his neck standing upright.
Something wasn't right.
He cocked his head again, straining hard, wanting to pick up on whatever had made those neck hairs react. Sniffing did nothing, bringing only a damp-earth stench along with a harder dash of rain. Nothing sounded untoward — no footsteps, no shuffles, no —
Breathing. He heard breathing, all right, and it wasn't his own.
"Well, look what we have here," Clark said, voice smarmy. "A goddamn wolf prowling the property."
Travis spun to face the man, retracting his lips and growling louder.
"You don't scare me none," Clark said, his smile creamy from the light in Sarah's living room. Strands of short dark hair lay flat on his head. "Not when I got me a gun here."
The urge to smack the shit out of Clark gripped Travis, but he couldn't shift, didn't have the time. Besides, if he shifted, the story of him being a wolf would be around the town by dawn, and fighting Clark naked wasn't high on Travis' list.
He stared at Clark, eyeing the small pistol hooked into the man's waistband. If he was quick, he could knock Clark down before he even had time to draw. Decision made, he lunged, all four paws smacking Clark in his shirt-fronted chest. Travis sailed through the air with him before hitting the ground with a dull thud. The rain fell harder, running into Travis' eyes, and he shook his head, blinking to get clearer sight. Beneath him, Clark pushed against Travis' chest with one hand, his other frantically searching for his gun.
Travis wasn't taking any chances. He dipped his head quickly, sinking his teeth into Clark's ear. He wanted to rip that fucker off but held back. All he needed to do was make the man leave, get him off this land until he figured out how best to keep Sarah safe. Her being raped if she declined Clark's offer of being her man just wasn't in the cards, no matter how much Clark had laughed about it earlier. God, that son of a bitch needed taking down a peg or ten.
Travis bit harder, pleased to hear Clark wailing as he smacked at Travis' snout with both hands. Scooting his back end around, Travis sat on Clark's gun and applied a little more pressure to his ear.
"Get the hell off me!" Clark yelled, the sound of the rain drowning out his voice. "You fucking bastard of an animal. Get off!"
Travis released his ear and went for one of his hands instead. He bit, teeth sinking into the flesh. Blood flooded his tongue. Clark's primordial howl almost matched Travis' when he had a mind to cry out at the moon. If this situation wasn't so serious, Travis would have laughed.
"Jesus damn Christ!" Clark said, his breaths heavy pants.
Travis let go and stepped back, snarling and snapping his teeth.
Go, get the hell out of here, asshole. Know when you're beaten.
Cautiously, Clark scooted backwards, only standing when a few feet separated them. "Where's my damn gun?" He looked away for a second to find it — it lay a few metres away — but had a change of heart, returning his sights to Travis.
Yeah, best you fucking forget it.
Clark backed away, clutching his injured hand to his chest. The blood from his ear looked almost as black as his hair in the shadows he'd retreated to, Sarah's living room lights ineffective this far away.
"You goddamned motherfucker!" Clark shouted. "I'll be back for you. I'll remember your hairy ass, you see if I don't."
He turned and ran, boot heels almost kissing his ass every time he lifted them from the ground. Travis watched him go, remaining in place until he was sure the man wasn't coming back. He stood there for a long time, until the moon had shifted some and the rain had gathered speed. Until a giant crack of thunder roared and a streak of lightning fell just short of striking one of the trees.
Turning back to the house, Travis trotted to the French doors and looked inside. Sarah was still reading, oblivious to what had occurred right outside her window. He watched her for a while, mind filled with images of them together, in the past and the future. Memories of her riding the horses, hair swinging, ass raised from the saddle, her thigh muscles prominent beneath her skin-tight jeans. In the future he pictured her much the same way, except he rode beside her and she looked at him in the way a woman looks at a man when she's in love.
Not going to happen.
The sting of something hitting his foot made Travis yelp before he had a chance to stop himself. Pain bloomed, radiating up his leg and burning through his muscles. A shuffle, barely discernible because of the pelting rain and bouts of thunder, alerted him to the fact that, once again, he wasn't alone. He twisted around, grimacing at the ache in his foot, and saw the retreating figure of Clark jumping over the fence and disappearing into the darkness.
How the fuck didn't I hear him?
Too busy entertaining fantasies, that's why, asshole.
He cursed himself a little more, felt the shift start to take over — and panicked. No, no way could he shift. Not now, not here.
Too late. He slumped to the floor, his foot on fire, the rest of his body burning just as bad. The shift seemed to take forever, and, by God, it hurt. It didn't usually, so what was different about tonight? He felt woozy, lightheaded, and, as the final vestiges of his wolf vanished, he looked through the French windows to check on Sarah.
She stood staring at him through the glass, a frown creating deep crevices in her forehead, her mouth open in shock. Had she seen him shift?
Jesus, no. Please, not that ...
She wrenched open one door and stood in the frame, hands jammed on her hips and fire in her eyes. "Travis? What in the hell are you doing out here?"
"I ..." He couldn't manage much more than that.
"And naked — naked in my damn backyard!" She stepped out into the driving rain, walking towards him barefoot. "Of all the people to label a pervert, I'd never have picked you, Travis Williams. Get the hell up and explain yourself!"
He stood, difficult with the pain in his foot, and opened his mouth to speak.
Before he had the chance to form words, Sarah said, "Oh my God. Your foot. It's bleeding!" She knelt, hair plastered to her head now, rain running in rivulets down her face. "Oh, shit. You've been shot!"
Travis glanced at his foot. A bloody mess marred the webbing between his big toe and the next.
That fucking Clark ...
"Who the hell did this?" she demanded, standing and holding out her hand.
"I don't know." He took her hand and allowed her to lead him into her living room. "The floor. I'm going to get it filthy."
"Fuck the floor!" she snapped. "I'm more interested in your foot."
Normally, he'd have wished she was more interested in his cock, but now wasn't the time for such thoughts. As though knowing he'd been shot had given his body permission to react, the pain grew more intense. It was only a flesh wound, but, shit, it killed like a mad bitch.
She closed the door, snapping the lock into place. "Get yourself into the kitchen. I'll clean you up. And maybe you can explain why you're naked while we're at it."
He lowered his head and walked to the kitchen as best he could, wishing other circumstances had led to her seeing him naked. Still, at least she knew what he looked like unclothed now. The best he could do was let her clean then dress his wound and get the hell home. He'd make up some bullshit about why he was on her property at night and hope he convinced her.
He sat on a pine chair at the table and lifted his foot, balancing it on his knee. Sarah bustled in, draping a blanket around him then going to the cupboard under the sink where she kept her first-aid kit.
"So," she said, dropping it onto the table and taking off the lid. "What the fuck were you doing out there with no clothes on? You got some kind of fetish or something? Enjoy dancing naked in the rain, is that it?"
Travis almost laughed. "No, no, nothing like that. I saw someone walking towards your house with a gun. I'd just got out of the shower ..." There, that should do it.
"And?" She took his foot in hand and began cleaning it with sterile wipes.
"So, I didn't think. I went out to follow and —"
"Got shot your goddamned self. Wonderful."
"That's about the measure of it."
"Well, as you know, I can take care of myself. Thanks for thinking of me and everything, but I really don't need you babysitting me. I've lived here long enough alone since my daddy passed away, and I manage just fine. I have a gun in every room and intend to use them if anyone dares to break inside. So, next time you're naked and you see someone headed here, pick up the phone instead, all right?"
Travis nodded. He hated lying to her, but what could he do? If he told her it had been Clark and she questioned the bastard, he might tell her she'd had a wolf in her yard. It was highly unlikely she'd put two and two together — people around here still didn't believe in shifters — but he didn't want to take the risk.
"Now then," she said, "once I'm done here, I'll make you some tea and get you some clothes. You can take the spare room for the night, if you like, or I'll drive you over the field to your place. Whatever you want."
"Yes, well, you won't be thanking me in a minute. You really ought to have this stitched or it's going to get infected. So, grit your teeth and hold on for the ride, nude boy."CHAPTER 2
Sarah finished dressing his foot, worried in case she'd done it wrong. A bullet wound was completely different from the odd graze or cut, despite the confidence she'd displayed when she told him she'd sew it ... That had been a ruse, the protective guard she put in place so no one knew she felt vulnerable at times — not only vulnerable in certain situations, but there was also the fact that this was the closest she'd come to a naked man.
Can a man really be that well built from working on a ranch?
Her mouth watered, and a tightness gripped the pit of her stomach. No man had ever made her feel this way before.
What was it about Travis Williams that made her weak in the knees?(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Shades of Grey"
Copyright © 2012 Natalie Dae and Sam Crescent.
Excerpted by permission of Totally Entwined Group Limited.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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